Goodbye to My Gallbladder

Content warning: This essay refers to disordered eating, restrictive eating, and medical procedures.

I didn’t plan on getting my gallbladder removed on Halloween, nine days after my fiancée and I moved into our new home — but that’s exactly what happened.


Let’s rewind.

It’s March, and I’m supposed to meet a friend for dinner. A few hours beforehand, I start to feel swollen, bloated, gassy — pain. I’ve dealt with IBS for almost a decade at this point and am used to my digestion ruining my life, and this friend is also an IBS sufferer (everyone knows IBS is a common affliction for hot queer girls), so I simply text her to cancel and she understands. I complain to my girlfriend that I’ve never had an IBS flair so bad. I attempt to soothe the attack with all my regular tools, but nothing works. I eventually fall asleep in pain. When I wake up in the morning I’m fine.

It’s July, and I’m visiting my mom on the East Coast. We eat pizza for dinner to celebrate my brother’s birthday; tomatoes and cheese are challenging for me so I expect a stomachache. Instead I wake up in the middle of the night with severe back pain. I don’t make a connection between my digestion and my back pain; I do worry it might be a heart attack. Eventually I fall back asleep.

It’s August and my girlfriend is proposing to me the next day but I don’t know that yet. We enjoy a six course tomato feast at our local farm and when I wake in the middle of the night with searing pain in my chest, my back, my whole upper body it seems, I am angry at myself. You deserve this, I think, as I know nightshades cause inflammation in my body. What did you expect. I take heartburn meds, I take ibuprofen, I lie on an ice pack, I play Woodoku on my phone. In the morning my girlfriend is concerned — I spent a portion of the evening sending her memes that made me laugh and distracted me from the pain so she can see I was awake from 2am-5am. We use our Hitatchi on my stomach, thinking I’m dealing with gas and the vibrations might help move it around, and eventually I feel a little bit better, and we leave for our camping trip, and she proposes to me at a secluded waterfall, and we eat pizza for dinner, and my body doesn’t hurt, and I sleep through the night with my new sparkly diamond on my left ring finger.

It’s a week later and I’m up in the middle of the night in pain again. Then again. Then again. Then again, but worse. I lose track of exactly how many times I am woken in the middle of the night in pain; usually it’s located deep in my back, between my shoulder blades, and I go to my cardiologist to ask about the possibility of a heart attack because my dad died of a heart attack in the middle of the night but he assures me I am not having a heart attack. I go back to acupuncture. I stop eating tomatoes even though it is peak tomato season. I hurt.

It is September when I have my next attack and my best friend tells me the pain I’m describing reminds her of what her sister, a fellow fat queer, experienced when she had gallstones. As soon as she gives me this information, things start to click into place. I’ve never heard of gallstones, never thought about my gallbladder. But when I start talking about it, it seems like everyone has a story. It turns out many of my friends have had their gallbladders removed. Everyone knows someone who has had their gallbladder removed. I drastically shift my diet while I wait to see my doctor. I want a plan.

Two weeks later I see my doctor. She is very sympathetic and orders an ultrasound right away. She writes URGENT on the sheet but the hospital she faxes it to can’t see my for seven days. When we get the results back she confirms I have gallstones, that they are causing pain, that eating a diet consisting of no fat, no dairy, no gluten, no sugar, no caffeine, and no alcohol is not a sustainable solution. She refers me to a general surgeon at a hospital; the hospital calls a few days later and tells me they can see me in June 2023. I’m confused. It’s not urgent, they explain. The pain feels pretty urgent, I tell them. They are firm. They have reviewed my doctor’s notes and my pain is not urgent. I’m getting married in June. They can see me a week after my wedding, they say. I resign myself to not eating anything on my wedding day, for fear of inducing a severe gallstone attack and being unable to enjoy the party because of the pain.


Okay, let’s fast forward.

It’s a grilled cheese that ends up sending me to the ER. The day before Halloween we have friends over for dinner and I want a grilled cheese and I decide to eat one, gallstones be damned. Following a very restrictive diet for health reasons is a real trip when you’re a fat girl who is forever trying to recover from a disordered eating past. The line for me between treating my body well and hurting my body is not always clear; sometimes it doesn’t exist. I tell my fiancée I’m going to eat a grilled cheese and simply accept the gallstone attack. She supports my autonomy and the sometimes complicated choices I make around food, always. The grilled cheese is perfect. I feel certain the pain will be a reasonable trade for the delight I feel eating it.

I am wrong.

A few hours after I consume the perfectly crisp sourdough bread and the gooey melty delicious cheese, the upper right part of my belly starts hurting. The pain settles into my back, then my breastbone, then my entire upper core. It feels as though there is a belt around my midsection, just under my boobs, that someone is pulling tighter and tighter. I ask my fiancée if we can go for a walk to try to relieve the pain; we do, but the pain remains. It gets worse. We play a board game to try to distract me. I am writhing on the floor by the end. She makes up the guest bedroom for me and I tell her to go to bed — I don’t want her to see me throw up. I make it to the bathroom just in time to get the puke into the toilet right after I say that. I pee my pants when I puke. My fiancée asks if she can take me to the ER but I say no, let’s wait and see what happens. I spend the next ten hours puking. Finally, at 7:30am, I ask my fiancée to take me to the hospital. I only cry once the whole time: when I pee my pants while puking in the ER, topless, right as the male nurse opens the door to check on me. Then they give me drugs and then the pain stops and then I get my gallbladder removed on Halloween.


Because I am the kind of person I am, as soon as this happened, I wanted to write about it and talk about it with other people who’ve experienced the same thing. I’ve never been shy to talk about my body, and I was shocked that when I posted about my surgery on Instagram I received 50+ DMs from people — both friends and strangers — expressing that they too were gallbladder-free! Many had also experienced minimizing comments from doctors before eventually having their gallbladders removed, and many had ended up in the ER — either because a doctor had pushed aside their concern or because their first attack was as bad as my last one. I wasn’t shocked by the numbers — my research about gallstones and gallbladders since my own pain began made it clear that many, many people suffer from this pain — but I was shocked that I’d never heard about it from anyone else until my pain began. How could I have never known that so many friends and acquaintances had their gallbladders removed? Why weren’t we talking about this?!

I think a pretty simple explanation is that many people don’t want to talk at length about their bodies, about pain, about surgery, about things they may deem “private.” And that’s fine! But since I feel comfortable doing so, and since I think a lot of us have experience with gallbladder pain, I wanted to write about it and also create a Feelings Atrium space in the comments for people to share their own experiences. A lot of people who messaged me expressed that they still can’t eat “whatever they want” (even though pretty much all doctors insist that you can once you get your gallbladder removed) and some still experienced pain even after surgery. One person shared that they got a hernia because of the emergency nature of the surgery and the shock to their body. Some people were very sick before surgery and recovered quickly after; some people remained sick. Lots of people had advice about what works for them, and I felt so grateful for all the information. It’s not useful to tell someone else what they must do with their body, but it’s very useful to share knowledge so that folks can try out what works for them.

So please, use the comments as a Feelings Atrium! Share your own gallbladder/gallstone stories, share what worked for you pre or post surgery, share if something other than surgery helped you, share things you wish you knew, share it all! I only ask that everyone please try to stick with “I” statements, do not tell other commenters what to do with their health or their bodies, and do not shame anyone for how they choose to handle their ailments.


I was really scared to have my gallbladder removed. The amount of self judgment I felt — internalized fatphobia (fat and thin people get gallstones, but I definitely found myself feeling “responsible” because I’m fat) and pressure to heal my body “naturally” with supplements, acupuncture, and permanent change in diet — and my inability to meet with a surgeon to discuss my options when I knew there was something very wrong going on inside of me compounded my fears and made the entire experience scarier than it needed to be. The physical pain was the worst I have ever experienced — a level 10 for sure, possibly higher! — and yet I still felt guilty going to the ER when I finally did. I wish I hadn’t had to deal with so much confusion and so many unknowns. Having surgery was absolutely the right choice for me, and it sucks that I felt shame about it because I couldn’t have my questions answered even when I knew something was wrong.

Now, 30 days later, I’m so relieved. I am healing very well. I don’t have to micromanage my diet, a behavior that is terrible for my mental health, and I don’t have to fear experiencing level 10 pain when I eat “the wrong thing.” And I feel certain I can have some cake next June without ruining my wedding.

I didn’t plan on getting my gallbladder removed on Halloween, nine days after my fiancée and I moved into our new home — but I’m glad I did. What about you?


PS: As a fun bonus, I decided I wanted to publish a piece of science writing to accompany this very personal (and decidedly un-scientific) piece about gallbladders — and when I think of queer science writing, you know I think of Leigh Cowart, who does it the way nobody else can. Leigh, author of Hurts So Good: The Science and Culture of Pain on Purpose, said yes to my request and put together the best History and Science Lesson About the Gallbladder that a gay could ever hope for. (What are you waiting for?! Click that link!!!)

Happy Gallbladder Day on Autostraddle dot com! I’m glad you’re here and I’m glad my gallbladder is not.


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Vanessa

Vanessa is a writer, a teacher, and the community editor at Autostraddle. Very hot, very fun, very weird. Find her on twitter and instagram.

Vanessa has written 395 articles for us.

32 Comments

  1. It was ramen that sent me to the ER where I found out I had gallstones. Delicious spicy salty homemade ramen. I didn’t even get to finish the whole bowl! I have truly never, ever experienced pain like the gallbladder attacks I had leading up to my own diagnosis and gallbladder surgery. The first time, I honestly thought I might be dying, and I am no stranger to pain. Half my body is basically made of robot parts at this point. I was in such agony I sweated through my own clothes and my also wife’s shirt, because I was resting my forehead on her stomach while she stood in front of me in the ER waiting room near tears because she thought I might be dying too.

    The guy who did my first ulstrasound was a 25-year-old super tall beanpole who also had his gallbladder removed. He said he’d tried all the supplements, the natural remedies, etc. etc. and he kept scanning his own gallbladder on the sly and none of that stuff ever made a difference. He said I should go ahead with the surgery as quickly as possible, just for the quality of life improvement — and he was right!

    Love you, gallbladder twin! Thank you for writing this piece!

  2. I had what ended up being gallstone pain minimized for literal YEARS before a scan for diverticulitis (which I also had) showed a giant gallstone which is nuts because those are not close together! That’s how big it was! By the time they took it out it was 8 CM and not only could I not tolerate anything on your list, but no leafy greens or any “roughage” at all. I was basically living on toast and broth! My body still has not recovered from having a stone that big or the surgery itself. I have scar tissue on surrounding organs and a rib out of place. Its been a year and a half! And yet. I still feel better than I did for the 3-4 years prior to the surgery and can even keep my diverticulitis in much better check now. Sending so much love to you! This is such a stressful process.

  3. I don’t have firsthand gallbladder experience, but my mom had hers out when I was a teen, and the attack I witnessed was very alarming! I remember holding the cordless phone ready to dial 911 while she was doubled over in her room. I didn’t end up calling an ambulance because the attack was relatively quick, so she went to the doctor on her own and had surgery within a couple weeks. I will never forget the “omg is my mom about to die” feeling though.

  4. A man in my life had his gallbladder removed in emergency surgery, and he claimed the pain was not a big deal. Then later, he accidentally cut off the top of his finger with a table saw and also claimed that pain wasn’t a big deal. Ever since, I’ve been curious/confused/suspicious about the actual pain levels associated with gallbladder attacks! Thank you for answering that question, Vanessa. (Also thank you for sharing in general, and I’m so glad you’re okay.)

  5. Not gallstones just a defective gallby. My first “attack” was scary. I was so nauseous but I thought the force from vomiting would make something explode inside and I would die. 13 years now and I still remember the pain and how scared I was.
    EVERYONE LISTEN: Go to the doctor if you are in that much pain! Don’t try to tough it out. You are not exaggerating, you are not an inconvenience.

  6. I had my gallbladder removed just over a year ago.

    After my first major attack, I went to urgent care because I was worried it was my appendix. The ultrasound showed about 5-6 smallish stones, and when I later spoke to my doctor they said I could try to manage it with changes to my diet to see if it resolved or I could consult with a surgeon about removal.

    I went for the first option, not being keen to have surgery if I could avoid it. But after a month of that, I still felt like garbage nearly 100% of the time. It was a few more months before I could get a surgery date.

    TW for dietary restrictions and weight discussion:

    I’m a thin person, and I also really like running. When my gallbladder trouble started, I was on the lower end of the weight range I like to be at. By the time I got my gallbladder out, I could only eat applesauce, low-fat cottage cheese, and dry toast – all in stupidly small quantities. I lost an alarming amount of weight very quickly and looked and felt like I was seriously ill.

    It’s taken me ann entire year to get back to a healthy weight and to stop looking like a sickly bird.

    The moral of the story is this – don’t mess around if you’ve got a busted gallbladder.

    Plus, if you get it removed, you can go around asking strangers “Do you know they took my gallbladder out?” 😅

  7. Of course gallstones are queer culture!! I went to the ER in the middle of the night after eating an extremely ill-advised doughnut burger for lunch… while also quarantining at home with covid. After throwing up dramatically and gritting my teeth through the stabbing pain for the whole afternoon, my wife finally convinced me this required medical attention.

    The ambulance driver was furious that we called him for something non-life-threatening (I was worried it might be appendicitis, even though it wasn’t in the right place for it) and said he wouldn’t take me anywhere, but my wife came through again and demanded I go to a hospital as I gasped in pain on the couch. He had to call 5 hospitals to find one with a bed available in a covid wing, so my first ambulance ride ever was a loooong trek across Berlin. The nurse who took my blood also felt I was wasting her time, asking why I had come in for a stomach ache.

    Luckily, the doctor was incredibly kind and reassured me that this was definitely something worth coming to the hospital for. It makes me so angry to think of those who may not have others around to advocate for them in the face of dismissal from medical professionals in situations like this.

    My gallbladder is still in me, but the second it makes another peep, it’s outta here.

    Happy gallbladder day!

    • What’s doubly terrible is not only are people dismissed about their pain, as you and so many others here have recounted… but here in the US, our medical system is so effed that as I read that you had to go in an ambulance to a hospital further away my thought was “oh no, the bill for that is going to be insane!”

      There was a fairly recent Ologies podcast episode about dolorology (the study of pain) and I wish every single person in the medical field would listen to it so that none of us would have our experiences minimized when we seek help for pain.

  8. Yup I know that pain. My dad used to massage my back where I would feel the pain the most, in a way where it almost like he was performing some kind of reverse cpr. Blessedly my doctor listened to me (he’s now retired and I miss him so much because my new doc is an asshole), scheduled the surgery, and have me Percocet for when the pain got super bad to tide me over until surgery. I’d maybe have a couple of bad attacks a month then.

    My surgery ended up being delayed because I had a fever at pre-op, he those 2 weeks were the WORST pain I’d ever had. I was taking at least one perc a day, I couldn’t even drink cold water because it would trigger an attack! I was only eating lean chicken breast, pork tenderloin or the filet off my dad’s t-bones, all cooked on the barbecue, all just dry and boring. My fam were troopers sticking to that rotation with me for at least a month. I could do nothing but writhe in pain and pass out after taking a perc for two weeks. Surgery was a freaking miracle.

    I can’t prove it, but I wonder if going on Yasmin the birth control pill to try to regulate weirdo periods and made me basically have morning sickness was the culprit of triggering my messed up gallbladder. I ended up going off it because it’s rather have weird periods than ne throwing up a little after every meal. But there were apparently so many cases of acute gallbladder problems, they took that pill off the market.

  9. It took my several weeks of convincing my wife to finally go see about the pain she kept having all the time after a meal, even with diet changes and experimentation. She kept trying to make up more rules about what to avoid. When finally she had an attack so miserable, plus my diagrams and cited papers on that her gall bladder was probably busted, along with other members in her family who’d had the same experience telling her to go get a scan, to go and actually get a ultrasound. They had her in surgery in less than 48 hours and she’s good for all but the richest meals now. Thankfully we had ample insurance that covered the whole process. I wouldn’t wish that pain on anyone.

  10. Yet another gallbladder-less queer here!
    My gallstones had been written off as indigestion for two years. Same symptoms everyone else here describes. Last year Thanksgiving I ended up at the ER after my urine turned black (tmi sorry). Turns out I had pancreatitis caused by all the gallstone buildup and ended up in the hospital for five days. Lesson learned-if you don’t like the answer you’re getting from one doctor, go to another one! Had the dr taken me seriously, then he would have sent me for an ultrasound right away.

  11. I’m currently going through the process of getting mine removed. Thankfully for me my sister had gone though all this stuff a few months before me so I was able to figure out what it was by talking to her (thanks Bree). It’s been rough waiting for appointments, my first attack was in the beginning of July and it’s almost December and I’m finally scheduled for my surgery consult this Friday. I have thought about just eating a bunch of McDonald’s and just going to the ER though.

    One thing I found interesting is something my ultrasound tech said. She was watching the student that I allowed to practice on me and she was just chit chatting with me and she said, a lot of times people who go on crash diets like no fat diets or restrictive eating diets or in my case, had a ED will develop gall stones because they’re gallbladder wasn’t being used for long periods of time. She definitely explained it better. It made me think, maybe this isn’t a “fat people problem” like I felt it was or like people are saying it is. Maybe this is a fat shaming problem. Would my gallbladder be trying to kill me if I had loved my changing body in my early 20’s? Or maybe if people wouldn’t have commented on my body?

  12. Oh my gosh VANESSA!! This is making me think about mysterious horrible pain I had on and off as a teen and have had a couple of attacks of since. Very similar to the belt around the midsection feeling you describe, usually radiating into my shoulder and making it hard to breathe in deeply or use my core. I had so many tests done and no one ever figured out what was wrong and I’ve treated it like heartburn ever since and avoided chewing gum, tomatoes, dairy, overeating and caffeine, the things that have triggered it in the past. For awhile I thought I had an aspartame allergy because I chewed gum all the time in high school and it stopped for years after I stopped eating gum. Now I’m wondering if it is gallstone related. I love this piece and I hate the way our culture treats pain, especially when it’s marginalized people feeling it. So glad you got yours out.

  13. Thanks so much Vanessa for sharing your experience!
    Wishing you all the best for your recovery & thanks also for sharing Leigh’s informative & beautifully written article. One of the many aspects about Autostraddle that I love is reading the unique personal perspectives of things like physical & mental health, etc.
    I think it’s super important for people to be open about their health issues, whatever they may be. There should be no shame in being sick – the human body is a complicated thing & there are so many ways it can suffer.
    My mother had gall bladder issues in her mid 50s when I was a teenager. She had it removed in 1989 at age 55, & despite a whole lot of other serious health issues, ended up making it to 83.
    There was an old cliche that people with gall bladder problems were typically “fair, fat & forty”. Wow, what a lot of discrimination was wrapped in that little phrase! My mother wasn’t particularly thin or fat, but after the surgery she couldn’t eat some of the things she’d previously enjoyed. It was a much more invasive surgery back in those days, however.
    Myself, I have not yet (fingers crossed) encountered any gall bladder drama, but have my fair share of other chronic illnesses – Crohn’s Disease & Mixed Connective Tissue Disease. And I just found out I’m Autistic as well!
    Along with queer pride, let’s embrace what I’m calling “sick pride”!
    There is no shame in having a human body that is complex & vulnerable. It’s all we have, so let’s take the best care of it we can, & be kind to ourselves!

  14. Happy you got it out Vanessa!

    I once, as a medical student, was assisting on a gallbladder removal. We couldn’t finish the laproscopic approach, since the gallbladder was to big, had to open the patient up. The thing was like a kids bag of marbles. Bigger than my fist, and probably 100s of small-ish gallstones. We were all a little impressed with it.

    Little upset that your cardiologist didn’t do their work and ask some questions about food related complaints – it’s pretty common that complaints of MI’s look like gallstones. They probably could have caught this.

    “even though pretty much all doctors insist that you can once you get your gallbladder removed”

    I don’t agree with the docs here. While yes, you can eat what you want, your body is not able to give a large dose of bile in one go anymore. Meaning that if you consume a larger amount of something high fat, it is possible that it’s not very well digested and it can upset your bowels. No afaik there’s no real harm in this, it just may make you feel crappy, or give you loose stools. So you can just accept side affects and eat as you like. Every body will have it’s own threshold in what is too much in one go. If it’s a bother, spread the foods out over a longer period of time.

    Good luck, hope you will heal fully fast, and have a wonderfull wedding with lots of cake!

  15. I had no idea what was happening. I became allergic to stuff I hadn’t been allergic to. I got very thin. I would periodically jaundice. I had no energy at all. So many tests. So many procedures. In the ultrasound they caught the tip of an ovarian cyst. (They are in totally different regions, so that gives you an idea of how large) So more tests. Hours of surgery for both gallbladder and multiple reproductive problems. Another related surgery a few months after that, and an unrelated one after that.

    It was hell. I lived on soup for about a month. I started gaining weight and haven’t stopped, so now I’m obese instead of underweight, and still tired a lot. Asked about it later and they kept saying it was because I was eating more. It wasn’t and isn’t. I gave up trying to find out. Although I’m glad they fixed the seen problems-all late stage/very serious, the general undermining of women’s experiences is what got me there, and why I am where I am now.

    I’m grateful for this forum though. It’s a part of my life that I just don’t have space to talk about anywhere. People assume what they will when they see my now plus-sized body. They don’t know/don’t care that I’m just lucky to be alive.

  16. It was avocado toast that sent me to my second ER visit where I FINALLY got the gallstones diagnosis! I was lucky that I was able to schedule my surgery only about a month later. I have never had pain again, over six years later, but my digestion has been weird since before the surgery and often remains very weird. So so glad that gallbladder is gone though.

    It did take me a misdiagnosis of chronic pancreatitis/alcohol abuse (I had a beer in my system the first time I was in the ER with pain) seven months before my surgery before the second bad attack that sent me back to the hospital, where apparently they did have my test results that no one had conveyed to me? Incredibly frustrating.

  17. Thank you for talking about this. I’m not embarrassed to have had a cholecystectomy, but at the time I was definitely frustrated that it was not caught earlier. I had severe back pain and my PCP sent me for an x-ray of my back, which obviously came out clear. I went to the ER in excruciating pain and had a CT which showed the possibility of gallstones, but the definitive ultrasound was not ordered. Days later when I finally saw a surgeon he said he would have immediately admitted me from the ER; as it was, he admitted me to the hospital that day and I had surgery the following morning.

    Pro: I quit smoking the day of my surgery, November 2016.
    Con (?): I avoid pain meds now because that IV dilaudid was TOO GOOD.

  18. it’s my one-year anniversary of being gallbladder free!
    I made several trips to the ER for wild abdominal pain but never showed any stones — in fact, one of my CT scans made the hospital *positive* I’d already had my gallbladder removed and must have forgotten.
    Fast forward to getting a HIDA scan (radioactive tracer that goes through your gallbladder after you get injected with fat), and the technician, who can’t *technically* say anything, asked if I was able to see my doctor that same day. Turns out my old GB was only operating at 8%. If you have gallbladder symptoms but your ultrasounds and CT scans never show stones, try asking for a HIDA scan.
    No stones, no bile, the muscle had stopped working, and my gallbladder just kinda died.
    It was all really confusing and mysterious to my doctors and me, but I was so grateful to get it out.
    Fast forward six months, and I realize now that my gallbladder death was most likely caused by Daily Harvest’s allegedly “healthy” mail-order vegan food! Currently working with a lawyer that’s representing around 500 of us — Daily Harvest only recalled one product but me and a shit ton of others exhibited the same symptoms/gallbladder removal as the folks sickened by the lentils this summer. None of us would’ve known about it if they hadn’t poisoned some influencers that blew the whistle.
    Anywho – if you got your gallbladder out in the last year or so and had any Daily Harvest food during this time, feel free to hop on one of the class actions happening lol

  19. I am so happy to see this gallbladder-related content! I had my gallbladder removed over a decade ago as a side effect of having part of my liver removed (I guess they’re attached??).

    I didn’t have any gallbladder-related problems before the surgery, but oh man did I have problems after. I have spent the last decade trying to figure out, every single day, what to eat to avoid almost instantaneous cramping and diarrhea. By tracking what I was eating, I put together a long time ago that it seemed to be triggered by the first thing I ate (or sometimes drank) in a day, especially if it was something high in fat or flavour. But this wasn’t a hard and fast rule. Sometimes I would be fine, take a break from eating, and then eat one more bite with immediate and painful results. Other times I would know within a few bites that I was in trouble. Sometimes a food that should have been “safe” would turn out not to be. Other times I would risk a breakfast sandwich and it would be fine. The only consistent thing was that I could eat whatever I wanted after about 4 pm.

    When I first went to a doctor about this, even though it was within a year or two after the surgery, she did not make the connection. She tested me for lactose intolerance and celiac disease and concluded that I had IBS. I then figured out myself through Dr. Google that it was probably related to not having a gallbladder. But my doctor wasn’t great and I didn’t ask her again.

    Last year I got a new primary care practitioner and I asked her about it (and mentioned that I thought it was lack-of-gallbladder-related). She said that western medicine doesn’t know much about digestion and suggested a naturopath. She then left the practice and I got a new doctor.

    Even though I felt silly asking AGAIN, I brought it up with my new doctor, and lo and behold, she suggested that I might have post-cholecystectomy syndrome and prescribed a bile acid sequestrant. AND IT WORKED!!!!!!

    My life has changed. I can eat whatever I want at whatever time of day I want. I no longer have to force myself to eat oatmeal that I don’t want just so I have a chance at eating something delicious without pain and bathroom emergencies later on. I am both thrilled and angry that it took over a decade to figure this out.

  20. Thank you, Vanessa, for this fascinating read! I too am gallbladderless, but as a side effect of liver surgery (according to my surgeon, there would be ‘no place to put it’ after removing that lobe of my liver). I really knew nothing about all the problems gallbladders could cause, and it’s fascinating to learn that removal can help fix eating related pain, as the only thing I was told prior to losing mine was that it might *cause* issues with fatty foods from the lack of bile. Which I actually also forgot about until just now, since I already had preexisting IBS!

    Somewhat unrelatedly (for me), “The line for me between treating my body well and hurting my body is not always clear” is a statement I felt deep in my bones.

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